Mature Fine Tailings

Clays in suspended in tailings water are separated with flocculant

Mature fine tailings are the clays from the bitumen ore that are suspended in the tailings water. To reduce the area and volume of oil sands tailings ponds, tailings water with suspended clay is mixed with a flocculent which causes the clay to settle out. The tailings water is pumped into dewatering cells where clear water drains off for reuse in bitumen processing while the clay is left behind.


PhotoSat surveying measures the mature fine tailings lift thicknesses

PhotoSat has developed a process to measure the thickness of the clay in each of the mature fine tailings cells in thickness intervals of 15cm. We use our highly accurate surveying on two satellite photo dates to create the detailed clay isopachs. This process improves the monitoring and measurement of the tailings, providing a cost-effective and reliable alternative to GPS surveying and aerial LiDAR mapping.


Experience at Suncor’s Oil Sands Mine
Suncor’s Tailings Reduction Operation (TRO) employs twice monthly PhotoSat surveying as a key component of their process. With most of the area inaccessible to ground surveyors, our unique technology safely produces high-detail topographic grids. The success of this service led PhotoSat, in collaboration with Suncor, to develop a process for automatically mapping the thickness of the mature fine tailings dewatering cells in increments of 15cm. Our surveying helps reduce existing mature fine tailings inventory.

Suncor presented at the Trimble Dimensions 2014 conference on the benefits of using PhotoSat’s satellite surveying:

  • Elevation data consistently meets 15cm accuracy requirements.
  • Improves safety for surveyors.
  • Each satellite photo pass provides snapshot of all TRO areas.
  • PhotoSat data processing much faster than GPS surveying and aerial LiDAR, usually delivered within eight days of the satellite photo capture.

View the presentation.


PhotoSat’s satellite surveying

Mature fine tailings are mapped using our satellite survey data with 15cm elevation accuracies for oil sands engineering projects. Visit the satellite surveying page for additional product information.

Proof of accuracy reports and other case studies are available on our Satellite surveying accuracy studies page.

For more information, contact PhotoSat at or 1-604-681-9770

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